Petrucci: That’s the simplified version, but yeah, the downbeats
still fall where they would normally fall, like on the beat.
I know you also make it a point to practice the same line starting with both a downstroke and an upstroke. Do you do that
with these types of combination lines as well?
Petrucci: Yeah. It’s important to work on that sort of thing. I
think this type of thing is a bit more natural. If you’re improvising
it’s where it ends up, depending on where you’re starting. But it’s
always good to practice things starting with different strokes so that
you feel comfortable both ways. It’s funny, I was talking to Mike
Mangini about this. He’s very into technique and plays at a highly
developed level, and alternate picking is a very similar parallel to
the left-right hand-foot coordination that drummers employ. Like if
you have a weak hand or a weak foot or a weak upstroke, and you
practice to make it strong and even.
Let’s talk gear now. Tell us about your Music Man instruments.
Petrucci: I started working with Music Man over 11 years ago, and
they’re an unbelievable company. We started with the original signature model, and now we have a whole line. Instead of discontinuing
a model, we keep it available for sale. The cool thing is that they’re all
unique in some way. It’s like having different spices in your spice rack.
Myung: I’m using custom Music Man 6-string Bongo basses. I’ve
had the one I’m playing now since last August, and it’s the best bass
I’ve ever played.
From what I understand, it’s the first 6-string bass Music Man
Myung: That’s right. The original Bongo prototype was a 6-string,
but the neck and the body had been increased proportionately. I
was living with that for a while, but it got to the point where it
didn’t feel completely right, so we went with a tighter spacing and
I went with superimposing six strings on a 5-string Bongo. That
was close, but I wasn’t completely sold on it, so I kept playing the
standard 6-strings, and then during the last tour I decided maybe
the magic formula is keeping the body of the bigger scale but using
the 5-string neck. That proved to be the winning combination. It’s
basically the 5-string neck dimension, but with six strings. It’s really
changed my world and made my life so much better.
John P., you’re partially responsible for making the Mesa/
Boogie Mark IIC+ the most sought-after vintage Mesa, and
you’ve consistently used Boogie amps over the years. Your rig
now features the Mark V, which has Mark IIC+ and Mark IV
modes. Can the Mark V replicate those amp tones exactly?
Petrucci: It’s really, really close. You can’t even tell the difference.
The whole record was done with the Mark V. All the rhythm guitars were done with the Mark IV mode, and all the guitar solos
were done with the IIC+ mode. It sounds so incredible. I’ll have
the Mark IV and IIC+ in the studio and A/B them, and not only
can you not tell the difference, in many cases, the Mark V beats
them with the improvements they made.
Petrucci: The Mark V uses newer parts and technology and has a
more focused sound, in general.
Both of you have also incorporated the Fractal Audio Axe-Fx
into your rigs.
Petrucci: When I went into the studio, the Fractal guys came down
and mic’d up my Mark V. We got this great guitar sound and they
modeled it as closely as they could. I was then able to use that bank
of Axe-Fx sounds to comfortably write and demo the album. It was
incredibly convenient and simple, and it sounded amazing. Once
the writing process was complete, I then mic’d up the Boogie and re-recorded all the guitars with the Mark V. Here and there, we ended
up keeping the scratch guitar performances with the Fractal if it was
something that just had that certain performance magic—mostly
some clean stuff and a couple of short lines.
Myung: Right now, the Axe-Fx Ultra is the hub for all my effects. In
the studio, I did a lot of modeling with the guys from Fractal Audio. We
modeled a whole bunch of things that I needed but would be too hard
to take on the road—stuff like a Pearce BC1 preamp, which I really like.
Is that the one Billy Sheehan uses?
Could the Axe-Fx eventually replace your amps?
Myung: Not for bass—at least not now. But it’s great as far as providing supplemental characteristics. What I’ve found is that, to get a cooking bass sound, what you need is a heat source. You really need tubes
and heat, because it offers warmth, dynamics, and natural compression.
Petrucci: The Axe-Fx is an awesome unit—it’s replaced most of the
effects in my rack, and it’s doing all of the delays and harmonies. I have a
small pedalboard for all of the front-end stuff. Ultimately though, when
it came time to track the guitars, for me, I don’t know if it’s too soon
to call it old-school, but the whole guitar-into-an-amp-into-a-cabinet-pushing air-being mic’d thing—I’m addicted to that. It’s something that
I’ll never stop doing. Every time I try something like a speaker simulator
or a modeling thing, as great as the technology is—and it gets better and
better and better—I’m still married to that. There’s nothing better.
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